This past week we decided to try out Tangelo's Grille on First Ave. N. in downtown St. Pete for lunch. We had originally intended to try Tangelo's several weeks ago for lunch after reading a glowing new review of the long-time lunch joint by Chris Sherman in the St. Pete Times. However, we gave up and went to the Thai place down the bock instead after sitting for about ten minutes at a table in Tangelo's and not having anyone bring us drinks or take our order.
I'm all for giving places a second try, though, particularly one that is doing something right with its food if it's crowded at lunch even when the service seems lackluster. So last week we headed back to Tangelo's and grabbed a different table then we had had on our last visit. Maybe a new table would change our luck. Indeed, the manager (I suspect she's also the owner) barked she would be with us soon after we sat down. Next thing I knew she was taking our order. Service wasn't friendly, but it was quick this time.
As we waited for our food, we couldn't help but watch in fascination as the manager (owner?) snapped at a customer standing at the counter waiting for an order. She also saracastically answered a customer that had asked a question about the menu who had sat down at a table next to us. I felt like we were watching the "Soup Nazi" at work on an old episode of Seinfeld. To be fair, the restaurant was again crowded for the lunch rush and looked like the kitchen was running behind and the place was short on servers. I get the feeling this is just "normal" here.
After waiting longer than we expected, our food came out. I had ordered Tangelo's Ybor City style Cuban sandwich with a bowl of black beans and rice and Traci had orered a Cuban with turkey and a bowl of black beans and rice as well. My pressed sandwich was very tasty and stuffed with generous portions of roast pork and ham.
I also had a few bites of Traci's turkey Cuban and thought it was very good. The black beans and rice on the other hand were bland. They were only saved after Traci grabbed a bottle of what turned out to be a delicious hot sauce from another table. On its own though, these were black beand and rice I'd skip.
As we finished up our meal, Traci caught the manager berating another customer in Spanish as he was about to leave. One side of me actually enjoyed these theatrics, while the other part of me wondered why this lady was in the restaurant business? I am proud to say I wasn't verbally assaulted by her, at least to my face, when I went up to the counter and paid our bill. Speaking of the bill, Tangelo's doesn't break the wallet. The lunch specials we had were about six bucks.
Bottom-line: For good cheap eats in downtown St. Pete for lunch, Tangelo's fits the bill. Come prepared, though, for gruff service. I can't say I'll be in a rush to come back anytime soon.
Inspection Scorecard: Last Inspection - September 2006 - Critical (6), Non-Critical (5).